Some Lighter Stories.—Another story of Delville Wood, introducing the M.O.
"During the Delville Wood show a captured Hun Red Cross man was lending a hand in the Battalion aid post. Suddenly a scuffle was heard on the steps of the dug-out, and the prisoner went to see what was the matter. 'What's happened?' asked Doc. Isaac, busily engaged in bandaging a wounded man.
"'Oh, it's only some of those b—— Bosches!' was the reply...."
There were many middle-aged men in the First Sportsman's. This introduces one of them.
"The Battalion was marching down the main street of Carnoy when a charming French girl of about eighteen dashed into the line of route, evidently with the idea of 'parleyvooing' with one of the young sports. She commenced in a breezy manner chatting with my father, a youngster of fifty, not noting, at first, his grey hair. Suddenly he turned his head toward her and smiled. 'Oh, papa!' she ejaculated, and fled...."
The Quartermaster is a noted personage in the Army. This is to introduce him.
"While the Battalion was at Aix Neulette the transport came under shell-fire one morning. The shells came nearer and nearer, in a direct line with the water-carts, highly polished, the pride of the corporal in charge. The personnel eventually thought fit to take shelter in an adjacent shell-hole until the Hun had finished his unpleasant pranks.
"Over came the fifth shell with a whistle and a scream, and—bang!—up went the two carts in the air, while shell fragments flew all over the place. Hanging on a line were various articles of washing, the clean clothes of the water-cart crew. These were in the line of fire, and as a consequence were well perforated.
"Now comes the sequel. They were taken to the Quartermaster on the following morning, and, so it is said, he refused to replace them on the ground that the holes were not the result of fair wear and tear!..."
Two gentlemen rankers are introduced here.
"After some months of hard roughing it, two of the Battalion cooks decided to apply, modestly, for commissions. So they duly appeared before the Colonel. But the summons to attend did not give them time in which to get out of their cooking rig, and the sergeant paraded them in their old overalls.
"'Hem. Where were you educated?' asked the Colonel of one man.
"'Rugby and Oxford,' was the reply.
"'And what were you in private life?' asked the Colonel, turning to the other.
"'A painter?' queried the Colonel.
"'Yes, sir. I have exhibited at the Royal Academy....'"
Many Germans left London when the war started, to fight against us. This is one of them, turned up as a prisoner.
"We were up the line one day when a patrol brought in a Hun prisoner. Of course we wanted information, for we were expecting an attack of some sort that very night. So we hauled our man up before the C.O. and started asking him questions. We tried him in German, and got no reply. We tried French with him, and it had no result. Then, seeing he was eyeing a water-bottle eagerly, I suddenly thought he might be thirsty.
"'Ask him if he would like a drink,' I suggested.
"'I should,' came the reply, in quite as good English as I could have spoken myself. Naturally I was surprised, and I asked him where he had learnt his English.
"'In London, sir,' was the rejoinder. 'I worked as a barber close to Holborn for years.'
"We gave him a little drink of whisky, and he told us there would be no attack that night. But we took no chances. A guard, with fixed bayonet, was placed over him, and he was told in English that he would be the first to get his medicine if he had played us false.
"He had not, however. No attack was made, and he was sent back behind the lines to the 'cage' next day...."
Overheard in the ranks on the march up the Cambrai Road in a snow-storm to take over at Bourlon Wood.
"Italy!" said the Doc. "It looks more like being another b—— Wood!"
The 23 (Service) Battalion Royal Fusiliers, 1920